Maggie Falenschrek, St. Peter, MN

Warm-up Question

Think back on the last week. What were some of the high points? What were some of the low points?

Highs and Lows

The 2022 Beijing Olympics wrap up this week. The last few weeks have been full of amazing moments: great displays of jaw-dropping talent, individuals and teams who are at the absolute top of their game, even heart-warming displays of camaraderie and sportsmanship. When we watch the competition as viewers we tend to only see the highlights— those mountaintop moments of triumph. We don’t often get a full view of the heartbreak, moments of failure, and gut wrenching disappointment. But, just like our own lives, the stories of olympic athletes are full of both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. 

Figure Skater Nathan Chen recently earned gold by putting together two nearly perfect skates in the men’s long and short programs. Heavily favored to win the discipline, he skated so secure and confidently that it would be hard to imagine that he could ever have a slip-up. However, four years earlier at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, Chen fell on the ice several times and placed well off of the podium, despite being one of the favorites for gold. 

American figure skater Jason Brown wowed the crowds in Beijing with his beautiful routines. However, four years ago, he didn’t even make the team. Speed skater Erin Jackson, who won gold in her event in Beijing, had a misstep in the olympic trials that left her off of the team. It wasn’t until teammate Brittany Bowe forfeited her spot that Jackson was able to join the olympic team. And then there are all the olympic stories that never get told in the spotlight. All together they tell us something about life; that the trajectory to success is never a straight line and, in fact, our lives are full of high points and low points. 

Discussion Questions

  • Who are your favorite olympic athletes? What makes their story so compelling?
  • Who is someone who inspires you? Why are they so inspiring?

Transfiguration of Our Lord

Exodus 34:29-35

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Luke 9:28-36 [37-43]

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The Transfiguration marks the end of the season of Epiphany. Throughout this season, we hear stories that help us understand the significance of who Jesus is and how Jesus is revealed in our world– that’s what Epiphany means, a revealing. The story of the Transfiguration serves the same purpose– to reveal to us something about the character of Jesus and why Jesus is special and set apart from other prophets. The Transfiguration story not only marks the ending of the church season of Epiphany but also directs us towards the beginning of Lent, where we remember Jesus’ journey to the cross. After this story filled with sparkle and historical glamour, Jesus descends the mountain into a world that will eventually kill him. 

So, how do we hold this story of glitter, fanfare, and proclamation next to Jesus’ journey to the cross? Sometimes we Christians are tempted to spend a little too much time in the grandeur of Jesus’ life, focusing on his miracles and teachings. Some suggest the Transfiguration story is meant to be a foretaste of the Easter story that is to come, but we don’t live our lives solely in Easter. Instead, our lives reflect a rhythm of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, all held together. The arrival of Easter doesn’t make sense without the season of Lent. 

The power of the resurrection is made even more amazing because of Jesus’ death. Jesus without the cross is nothing new. Consequently, if we only see Jesus in the high places of our lives, the times when everything is going good,  then we are only getting half of the story. In every situation, the highs and especially the lows, Jesus promises to accompany us, gently assuring us, “Do not be afraid, I am with you.” Jesus is not confined to the mountaintops, the good times in our lives when we feel like we have it all figured out.  He descends the mountain with us, following us into the places where real life comes to fruition. 

The season of Lent gives us the opportunity to follow Jesus and his disciples down the mountain into his final weeks on earth. Lent is a beautiful time to reflect, pray, worship, and discern.  But we also anticipate the resurrection at the end of this Lenten journey, a resurrection that makes Jesus’ promise to accompany us in the joys and in our fears that much more real. This resurrection allows us to hear Jesus’ words, “do not be afraid,” and believe them because we know the end of the story. We know that fear and death do not have the final word. 

Where there is brokenness there will soon be reconciliation. Where there is stability, there will soon be assurance. Where there is hopelessness, a small glimmer of hope will show itself among us. This is the hope we are promised through Jesus, God’s own beloved.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you think Jesus means when tells his disciples, “do not be afraid.”? 
  • What tools do you use to help you get through hard times? 
  • What advice would you give a friend whose struggling?
  • What role does Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit play in the highs and lows of our lives?

Activity Suggestions

  • Grab some paper and markers and map out a timeline of your life, taking special care to mark both the high points (good parts) and the low points (not so good, or really hard parts). If you’re comfortable, pick a high point and a low point to share with someone else. 
  • Create a resource list of skills and supports that you can use to help you through difficult times. Sometimes it helps to think what has helped you in the past— did you gain any helpful skills? Did you find someone to talk to who is a particularly good listener? Keep your list in a safe place so you can reference it when things get tough. 
  • Jam out to the song, “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells. 

Closing Prayer

Ever-present God, from the mountaintops to deep in the valleys, the high points and the low points, the good times and the bad, you promise to be with us. As we journey to the season of Lent, help us to witness you in new rhythms and practices, the tried and true and the unexpected. Guide us as we navigate all of the complexities of life knowing that, even know we cycle through highs and lows, your love remains steadfast.